Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Signing the Paris climate deal

"Every year the problems are getting worse. We are at the limits. If I may use a strong word I would say that we are at the limits of suicide." - Pope Francis.

Arguably the most relevant meeting of world leaders in recent times is what took place in December 2015. That was the Paris climate conference (COP21). The hype prior to the meeting lived up to the billing as 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal. To me, the COP21 in Pariss was the most important and meaningful gathering in recent times.

The Paris agreement set out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C. One will say this has taken too long in coming. But it is true that it is better late than never. And getting things done in the global arena is very, and I mean V-E-R-Y, different from how I  run my home. This Paris agreement that is being lauded is due to enter into force in 2020. What will we doing from 2016 - 2020? That is a legitimate question to ask but not so easy to answer, it seems. What I can guess will happen in between getting the agreement and the agreement coming into force may include the following
  1. A meeting
  2. Another meeting
  3. One more meeting
  4. Many more meetings
  5. A final meeting to discuss how to conclude

Whilst these meetings are going on, more Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) will be getting into the atmosphere.

The first meeting
On 22 April 2016, the first meeting was held. It was a really big show for climate change. At least 34 countries representing 49% of greenhouse gas emissions formally joined the agreement, or committed to joining the agreement as early as possible this year that high-profile signing ceremony at the United Nations. Now, the historic Paris agreement has started moving closer to the critical threshold for becoming operational faster than expected. This is good news!

But the Paris agreement will only come into force when countries representing at least 55% of total greenhouse gases and 55% of the world's population join the agreement. When one looks at the countries that produce most of the worlds GHGs, China, USA, Russia, India, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Indonesia, Australia and Argentina will come up. So, if these countries that together produce about 60% of the world's GHGs sign the agreement, we will be moving faster. But things do not work so smooth when it comes to climate change committments. China, which accounts for about 20% of global emissions, says it would finalise domestic procedures to join the agreement before the G20 meeting in September. Other industrialised countries offered similar pledges to submit the agreement for approval to parliament. Fasten your seat-belts and keep your fingers crossed.

The talked about picture
A picture of USA Secretary of State John Kerry signing the Paris agreement with his granddaughter in his arms has been the most talked about picture from the grand signing ceremony. That picture really stole the show from Leonardo DiCaprio and all the over 170 world leaders who were at the UN  headquarters to sign the climate change agreement. Mr Kerry's adorable 2-year-old granddaughter Isabel was one of 197 children present at the event to represent the countries that had adopted the agreement.

That picture is just awesome. It brings two things to my mind:
  1. the climate change debate has usually focused on our future and what is a better representation of this by the picture of Mr Kerry holding Isabel whilst signing the agreement!
  2. the climate issues usually get over-simplified as 'we are doing it for our children and grandchildren' and eventually we do not do it. This is simply because in truth we do not really care so much for our children and grandchildren like we do for ourselves.

The challenge which climate change poses is for now. Let's understand it as such. It is affecting us now. What we do now is what we do for ourselves.

The Journey has started
The journey has started well. All hands on deck. Let's do this for ourselves.

"The challenge is to save ourselves, not someone else, but ourselves." - Peter M. Christian, President of Micronesia